Today at the AsiaWorld-Expo, equestrian sports fans will be enjoying the final events of the three-day Longines Masters of Hong Kong event, a marquee international indoor showjumping extravaganza hosted by the city for the seventh time.
As well as watching elite riders from all around the world vie for the grand slam prizes, there are two newly added events that allow young talented riders in Asia to experience competing in an international arena. Representing Hong Kong are the city’s Junior Rider of the Year Vincent Capol and Youth Olympic rider Edgar Fung Ho-yuen.
The 15-year-olds went up against four other top Asian junior riders at the HKJC Asian Junior Challenge yesterday, and will contend the title at the HKJA Asian Junior Grand Prix today. Read on to find out more about the teens they’re taking on:
Li Tzu-yen, 14, Chinese Taipei
Li Tzu-yen is the reigning Asian junior showjumping champion, which makes him a strong favourite of the competition. Although the Taichung-based rider has eight year’s experience, you might be surprised to know the champion title he claimed, at the 3rd AEF Junior Jumping Championship on his home soil in November, was his first international victory.
The highest fence he had ever tackled is 1.2 metres. The unexpected victory at the Asian junior tournament was how the Taiwanese rider earned his place to compete in the junior competitions at the Longines Masters Weekend.
“I had no idea I would make it here [Hong Kong], and now, it feels great to be here,” said Tzu-yen. “I hope I can meet new friends and gain experience.”
Muhammad Akbar Kurniawan, 14, Indonesia
Born in Jarkata, Indonesia, Muhammad Akbar Kurniawan is the only contestant who specialises in both showjumping and dressage. His horse riding journey began when he was nine, and he entered his first international tournament last year. He has attained some outstanding results, including a team title at the FEI CSIJ-B Standard Show in Bangkok, Thailand, in November, and his individual victory at the ZZ Equestrian Cup in Indonesia in December.
The highest fence he’s jumped is 1.3 metres. After getting a taste of victory last year, the Indonesian rider has set sights on greater goals, including to become an Olympic gold medallist.
“My dream is to participate in a Longines global champions tour, and to get a gold medal at the Olympics for representing Indonesia,” said Muhammad Akbar.
Anna Cao Jiaxian, 16, China
Despite being the only female rider in the youth tournament, Anna Cao Jiaxian says she is not in the slightest bit intimidated by her male counterparts. The Chinese rider has been in the sport for six years and it all began with, as she puts it, “love at first sight”.
“I believe I have a special connection with the horses. They’re my loyal friends,” said Anna.
The student from Tung Wah Senior High School in Dongguan made her international debut at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup China League in Beijing in 2015. Since then, Anna has continued to strive for a career breakthrough, and she found it last year, at the FEI Nations Cup (CSIO J&Y) showjumping competition in Beijing, where she came out on top in the 1.15 metres event. Her record fence height is 1.2 metres.
Amirhossein Siahmansouri, 18, Iran
While he the oldest contestant, Amirhossein Siahmansouri has the least experience, as he took up the sport just four years ago. Amirhossein is a gifted student who not only excels in academics, but has also made swift progress in the sport after taking part in his maiden competition in 2015.
Over the past two years, the Iranian has earned several medals at national championships, such as the Padideh Cup in 2016. He also finished in fifth place at the third AEF Junior Jumping Championship in Taiwan last year. So far, the highest fence he has cleared is 1.35 metres, the tallest among all competitors.
Amirhossein’s parents have been very supportive and built him an equestrian club in his hometown of Varamin, Tehran, in the hope that his son’s enthusiasm for the sport could spread to the rest of the community.
“I want to get better at every day to make my family and my country proud,” said Amirhossein.